Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long has been making headlines all season, not just for his play on the field, but for his work off of it.
In October, we told you about Long’s decision to donate his entire 2017 NFL salary to improve equal education opportunities. Now, he’s joining forces with a war veteran to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and to bring life sustaining well water to East Africa in February.
Retired Marine Iraq war veteran and Philadelphia native, Elliot Ruiz, was injured in 2003 at 17 years old when his unit rescued seven POWs. He had to undergo 14 surgeries on his back and leg, and doctors told him he’d have limited mobility for his entire life.
Fast forward 15 years and Ruiz will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the world’s tallest peaks, as part of Conquering Kili’s Waterboys initiative, which was founded by Long and former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer to bring clean water to communities in Africa by hiring local crews to drill deep-bore wells that can serve up to 7,500 people. Their goal is to eventually install 32 water wells across Tanzania.
Each year, a new Conquering Kili class accepts the challenge to embark for the summit, a walk that represents the miles that many African women journey on a daily basis to fetch water for their families. While training to reach the summit, each team member works to raise funds so that communities can be transformed through the gift of clean water. To date, Conquering Kili team members from 2016 and 2017 have raised more than $275,000 and built four wells in Tanzania. (Waterboys.org)
“Working with Chris, and Waterboys is amazing,” Ruiz told CBSPhilly.com. “You see Chris on the field, and you see this guy giving the Eagles 100 percent on every down. Then you meet him off the field and he does the same, he gives you 100 percent of his focus. The nicest guy, the fact that he is donating his entire salary this season says a lot about him. Doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he’s giving you 100 percent.”
Ruiz, a Purple Heart recipient who also earned a Presidential Unit Citation for rescuing POWs, was inspired to join the Marines because of his father. At 17, he was one of the youngest Marines to deploy to Iraq as part of the 1st Marine Division.
A year after retiring from the military, he got into acting and caught his big break in Battle for Haditha (2007).
If you’d like to donate to Ruiz and the Waterboys’ cause, visit Waterboys.org.